Woman's remains `were not torn by animals'

The Independent Archive; 10 August 1989 At her inquest in Nairobi, Kenyan police say that Julie Ward, 28, from Bury St Edmunds, was killed by wild animals. Her father believes she was murdered
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A WILDLIFE documentary producer yesterday told an inquest into the violent death of a British woman in a Kenyan game reserve that he saw no signs that the remains of one of her legs had been torn by animals.

Kenyan police say that Julie Ward, 28, from Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, wandered into the bush after her car broke down last September and was killed by wild animals. Her father believes she was murdered.

In questions to Paul Weld-Dixon, who described himself as familiar with how carnivores devoured corpses, Alex Etyang, the lawyer representing the Kenyan government, appeared to seize on testimony that the leg bore a deep gash.

"Had the meat been torn out?" he asked.

Mr Weld-Dixon, a Briton who has lived in Kenya for 25 years, told the inquest in Nairobi: "This would not have been caused by the teeth of animals."

Mr Etyang also questioned why Mr Weld-Dixon, in a statement to police, failed to note an alleged remark by Dr Adel Youseff Shaker, the pathologist, that Miss Ward had been murdered. Mr Weld-Dixon said he had been asked only to identify the remains, and had limited his comments to that. John Ward, the dead woman's father, has spent pounds 25,000 and flown to Kenya 11 times amassing evidence.

Much of yesterday's testimony by four witnesses centred around Miss Ward's arrival in Kenya in June and her movements up to her disappearance in the Mara game reserve in September.

Mr Weld-Dixon had let Miss Ward camp in the garden of his house just outside Nairobi when she first arrived. He had stayed loosely in touch with her until her departure on 2 September for the Mara district in a battered second-hand Suzuki jeep.

Mr Weld-Dixon had arranged to drive Miss Ward to the airport for a flight home at dawn on Saturday 10 September, so became concerned when she had failed to make contact as planned on the previous day.

On the Monday he had driven to Narok, a provincial town between Nairobi and the Mara, met police and posted a reward of 5,000 Kenya shillings (about pounds 145) for information about her.

By then, Mr Ward had flown in and organised a massive air search that, on Tuesday 13 September, found first her vehicle stranded away from the Mara's roads, and then her remains about six miles away.

The official pathologist's report, which was later made public, concluded that Miss Ward's remains had been torn from her body, rather than cut. Mr Ward plans to present evidence that the report has been altered, with the words "cleanly cut" and "sharp wound" crudely retyped with "torn and cracked" and "blunt wound".

In Britain, pathologists who have examined the remains have concluded that the leg and jaw were severed, then burnt. In his questioning of witnesses, Mr Etyang showed particular interest in Miss Ward's associations with men. He asked Mr Weld-Dixon whether she had been living alone at her room in Nairobi. He later asked David Weston, an American pilot she had met at the Mara Serena lodge hotel the day before she disappeared, whether he had been in her bedroom. He had not, he told the court.

The inquest is to continue through this week and is expected to be adjourned for perhaps a fortnight, with lack of space on the court schedule given as the explanation. The initial indications from the state were that it might continue denying that Miss Ward was murdered, and would perhaps suggest she was killed and eaten by one of the many carnivores that roam the Mara.

Such a conclusion, with its implication that Miss Ward was a foolish woman who wandered from the beaten track, would reassure Kenya's government at a particularly delicate time.

A series of isolated killings in game parks has left the country anxious to avoid publicity that might jeopardise earnings from tourism, its leading foreign currency earner.

Todd Shields

From the Home News pages of `The Independent', Thursday 10 August 1989